SUMMER BRIDGE PROGRAM CLOSES GAP FOR STEM STUDENTS

(Al Jones/GTCC)

(Al Jones/GTCC)

By Jana Carver

Guilford Technical Community College helped incoming students kick-start their college careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) this summer, thanks to a new bridge program connected to the North Carolina STEM Alliance (NCSA).

The NCSA is an alliance between Central Piedmont Community College, GTCC and Davidson County Community College (DCCC). Funded by the National Science Foundation, the $1.5 million grant supports underrepresented minorities who wish to go into one or multiple STEM fields.

“All the data suggests that these students are the smallest group in STEM,” said Al Jones, GTCC’s STEM Navigator and project coordinator. “So, to be more effective and to utilize the American population more effectively and efficiently, we want to reach those folk who aren’t getting reached.”

Kiani Gardner, an assistant professor in biology at GTCC, is one of the individuals who helped write the NCSA grant proposal and acts as Principal Investigator (PI) over the grant for GTCC. She said that the STEM summer bridge program plays a big part in reaching underrepresented minorities such as African Americans, Latinos and Hispanics.

“The goal of this program is really to prepare the students from the moment they set foot onto GTCC so that they can successfully transfer to a four-year in a STEM field,” Gardner said. “We want our students who want to be in STEM to be there.”

(Al Jones/GTCC)

(Al Jones/GTCC)

The three-week bridge program allowed students to get a taste of multiple areas in STEM, including working with advanced software in a computer lab, in order to prime them for college-level courses and prospective careers. Stephon Grinage, an 18-year-old participant, is grateful for the experience.

“It really helps you gain experience, especially if you’re intimidated by the college experience,” Grinage said. “… Now I have a head start at college.”

Grinage, who plans to transfer to North Carolina State University for aerospace engineering and hopes to work for NASA one day, said he was glad he made the decision to spend part of his summer participating in the program.  

“I would recommend it to anybody who would like to work in any of the fields in STEM, or anybody who thinks that they can’t accomplish anything because this program really helps you a lot … it builds your confidence,” Grinage said.

Grinage is now one of 25 fellows within the alliance. Some of the benefits fellows receive include a $575 stipend for the academic year, the opportunity to receive academic and career advising from staff, and access to math coaches. The NCSA also provides fellows with the opportunity to tour four-year institutions so that, when the time comes, they can make informed decisions on where to continue their education and thrive in STEM.

To learn more about the North Carolina STEM Alliance, contact Al Jones at 336-334-4822, ext. 50350 or at aljones@gtcc.edu.

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-September 2, 2016